Do your bit and sweat in the right kit
Ethical and sustainable fashion should be high on your agenda by now. According to stats, 10,000 items of clothing get sent to landfill every five minutes, so there’s really no excuse not to add some sustainable exercise clothes to your kit drawer.
While it can be hard and costly to completely overhaul your wardrobe, there are small steps that can be done, such as investing in brands that are making a positive impact, from which materials they use to produce their clothes, to their carbon footprint.
What is sustainable activewear?
According to Emma Foster-Geering, Vivobarefoot‘s director of sustainability, being an eco-brand means setting goals to restore and regenerate human health and our natural world. “There is simply no other alternative in a present where us and our ecosystems are so sick,” she explains.
Historically, activewear hasn’t been particularly environmentally friendly, in no small parts due to the fabric used: often synthetic, non-recycled and non-biodegradable, which required a lot of water and energy to produce.
Luckily, times have changed. Independent brands are carving a niche into the market by focusing on ethical practices such as a short supply chain and ethical labour, and innovating with natural fabrics such as vegan leather made from plants or natural rubber.
Bigger brands are following suit, with labels such as adidas developing new fabrics from ocean waste and investing in better cotton. They’ve recently teamed up with Parley on a collection using up-cycled marine plastic waste intercepted from remote islands, beaches and coastal communities.
Why is shopping sustainably important?
Because, in short, the organisations and regulations that govern them are driven by consumer opinion, according to Foster-Geering.
“By shopping sustainable, we send a collective message to both that products which solve important environmental and ethical problems are what we want. We know sustainability is important, but what we need next is a lot more scientific rigour and transparency around what that really means,” she goes on.
What brands are sustainable?
There are so many sustainable sports brands offering such a great range of workout leggings, sports bras and running shoes that won’t just enhance and support your workout, but will have less of an impact on the planet. No matter your budget, or your workout of choice, there are load of online brands (seeing as shops aren’t open yet) that offer everything from luxe Tencel yoga bodysuits to vegan leather trainers.
“More and more companies than ever are marketing their products as sustainable, but arguably the production of items that have been made transparently in environmental and ethically positive supply chains with strong circular solutions remains extremely low. The shift to ‘eco’ thinking has been overwhelming and hopefully the practical application of this in the industry will follow,” says Foster-Geering.
She reckons that the following five things are what you need to be looking out for:
- Company: Make sure the company who makes the kit has credentials, aka are they B Corp certified? Do they publish a sustainability report? Do they use catch phrases like ‘sustainable’ ‘vegan’ ‘ethical’ ‘responsibly sourced’ without backing up how in readily available policies?
- Product materials: Are the product materials from renewable, natural sources or biosynthetic feedstocks?
- Product design: Does the world really need this new product to exist? Or it is just something trendy they sell to make money?
- Chemicals: Does the product contain any hazardous chemicals listed on the EU REACH or ZDHC MRSL lists?
- Value chain: Can you see what farms and factories made these products and do they provide end-of-life solutions for product repair and return?What is the Brand strategy on sustainability? Is it integrated with their business goals? Are employees incentives to achieve sustainability goals?
Keep scrolling to shop MC’s edit of the best sustainable exercise clothes for a more conscious workout.
Sustainable exercise clothes to shop now: 21 top picks
Patagonia acknowledge that everything we as humans make has an impact on the planet. That's why 83% of their clothes are Fair Trade certified sewn - more than any other apparel brand.
These shorts are made from recycled polyester and built to last, meaning less waste all round.
Meet Zouma, the British running brand producing vests, caps and socks made from 100% recycled materials.
Keen to invest in sustainable exercise clothes that are made to last? This one's for you - all packaging is biodegradable or recyclable, there's a tree planted for every order, and you can order a bag on site which catches microfibres in your washing machine, too.
Paying workers a fair wage, they're WRAP certified, too - short for Worldwide Responsible Accredited Production.
Keen swimmer but also keen to invest in a costume that doesn't contribute to plastic waste or ocean pollution?
Stay Wild is about as sustainable as it gets when it comes to swimwear - all products are made in London from 100% ECONYL® and 100% recycled plastic thread. Impressive.
Fun fact: The Women's Attack Jersey is made with recycled water bottles. While there is still more for the brand to do on the sustainability scale, it's a great start.
So good we featured them twice. That's because outdoor clothing brand Patagonia has been focused on the environment since launching back in the 70s. Now that's a long time.
To limit ecological impact, it focuses on clothing that can last for generations or can be recycled so the materials in them remain in use.
It also takes action on the most pressing environmental issues facing the planet, from supporting youth fighting against oil drilling to suing the former US president.
From packaging that is 100% recycled and recyclable, to leggings made from 79% recycled polyester (or RPET) and 21% spandex, from recycled fishing nets and other waste using ECONYL® yarn, or tees and tanks that are 100% cupro, a delicate fiber made from waste the cotton industry leaves behind, girlfriend is aiming to be as eco-friendly as possible. It also offers inclusive sizing from XXS to 6XL.
The bungee-adjustable hood and storm flap provide high coverage from the elements, and the jacket itself packs easily into a side zipped pocket, making this the ideal choice for your commute.
This thoughtfulness in design is reflected in the jacket's echo-conscious back story it was wrought from 100% recycled polyester ripstop.
Cult Australian athletics brand Lorna Jane is taking active steps to become more sustainable. They're not perfect, but they're certainly working on it.
As of now, they are taking steps to repurpose and recycle as much packaging as possible in the warehouse, sourcing Australian-owned and managed manufacturing groups and using recycled, reusable, biodegradable materials wherever possible.
Quicksilver recognises its role as leaders in the board-riding community and is committed to sustainable progress on every level.
That’s why they developed a long-term strategy based on the Sustainable Development Goals put forth by the United
It's investing in better fabrics - using recycled bottles and polyester, for example - and targets that include reducing CO2 emissions by 50% by 2026 and sustainably produce 100% of goods by 2030. Plus, it's latest swimwear collection is 100% sustainable and made from recycled fishing nets.
You'll have heard of TALA, Grace Beverley's sustainable gym wear brand.
Our favourite bit of kit from the brand is their SkinLuxe™ Racer Strap Sports Bra. It's made from a fabric blend of 76% recycled Nylon and 24% LYCRA® Sport, which is a sustainable and feels buttery-smooth to wear.
Finisterre became the first European surf brand to be awarded a b-corp back in 2018, with sustainability long at the core of what the brand does.
This merino wool tank is perfect for outdoor adventures, and promises to be both comfortable and practical thanks to its ergonomic panels and brushed recycled fabric.
Stylish and sustainable - win, win.
From a circular textile mill, athleisurewear brand Kit Change create organic sweats and hoodies and reuse any waste from the fibres and fabric for a continuous manufacturing process. Not bad, eh?
Approximately 20 used PET bottles are repurposed for every metre of legging fabric - equating to 16 in this pair of leggings alone. A great all-rounder.
The Parisian brand chooses manufacturers to ensure long-standing partnerships and selected based on years of expertise in the luxury fashion world.
Only the highest quality fabrics are used, and sustainable options where technically possible.
Plus, the quality and care with which we designs are made means that styles are durable and true investment pieces.
Using luxury fabrics with intelligent technology, PERFF designs and manufactures timeless pieces with a sustainable undertone, with a large percentage of the collection using recycled materials.
Some styles are made from ECONYL, regenerated Nylon which is infinitely recyclable. ECONYL reduces the global warming impact of nylon by up to 80% compared with the material from oil.
Additionally, the manufacturers have sustainable and fair-trade certifications.
This stylish sportswear brand specialises in understated pieces.
Made with bio-based luxury textiles, they use premium raw materials that are eco-sustainable, plus production processes with a limited impact on the environment, to boot.
Ethically produced, Feel Fit collections are made from high quality ECONYL® (regenerated plastic waste).
Available in sizes to fit UK 6 to UK 22, the brand also supports global tree planting charity Tree Sisters with every item sold.
NOW_THEN has teamed up with the ECONYL® project to fight ocean pollution by reclaiming ghost fishing nets and give them a second life transforming them into high quality regenerated nylon.
With every swimsuit produced, it upcycles up to 300grs of marine debris and other nylon waste as well as reducing its environmental footprint thanks to an eco production process.
Plus, all their fabrics and components are Oekotex® 100 Standard certified, which means that they are free of harmful and toxic chemicals.
Evarae ensure a fully transparent supply chain of materials and production, consciously choosing materials that are made through more sustainable processes that lower their environmental impact. 95% of swimwear is made from the regenerative fabric ECONYL®, a material that is infinitely recyclable and made using waste plastic from our oceans and landfills.
Ready to wear is crafted in 100% earth friendly fibres. Its 'clean' silk is made by eco-friendly farming methods using regenerative farming processes and manufactured using green energy of solar and wind. Other conscious materials include TENCEL™ Lyocell, produced by environmentally responsible processes and sustainably sourced raw material wood. Made in a closed loop process, reducing waste.
This UK label focuses on luxury, sustainably-aware athleisure apparel, using a high percentage of recycled and bio-based materials.
The clothing comprises sweat-wicking, anti-bacterial, breathable fabrics, and the High Neck Sweater is made from Br4, Brugnoli’s bio-based fabric for zero compromises between environment and performance.
The collection includes entirely seamless activewear separates in moisture-wicking super soft fabric with a ‘4-way stretch’ feature and mesh detail for added breathability that sit alongside accompanying half-zip cotton sweatshirts. The collection is expertly and ecologically crafted at a world-renowned mill in Portugal that minimises waste and reduces water consumption and is certified with the highest environmental standards.